CHESHIRE >> There’s reason to believe that the Cheshire boys swimming team is in the midst of a renaissance.
After being one of the more dominating programs since the inception of the Southern Connecticut Conference in 1994 through the mid 2000s, the Rams have fared no better than fifth at the league championship meet the past six seasons.
With a young but talented roster, that may change this season.
Cheshire is currently unbeaten at 7-0, which includes victories over league opponent Xavier and non-league foe Sacred Heart, which finished as the runner-up in Class S last season after winning the title in 2012 and 2011.
“It was really nice to pick up wins that we haven’t had against an out-of-league rival like Sacred Heart,” Cheshire coach Fran Connolly said, “and Xavier, this is only the second time in the last seven seasons that we have beaten them.”
Connolly said that of the 27 swimmers on his team, just five are seniors and there are no juniors. The rest of the roster is comprised of sophomores and freshmen, but most of the sophomores gained pool experience last season.
“We brought back some real strength,” Connolly said. “Some of the kids did a lot of great things in the offseason. I’m happy, but I am not that surprised with where we are right now.”
The Rams, who have won four SCC titles, but none since 2002, have the depth and talent to finish in the top 3 at this year’s SCC meet according to Connolly. Connolly, though, noted that nine-time defending league champion Fairfield Prep is the heavy favorite again this season.
“We’ve been down in the 4-5-6 range lately,” said Connolly, in his eight season as the Cheshire coach. “We’re targeting more like top 2 or 3 this year, which is an attainable goal. I don’t think that’s a stretch for that meet.”
Senior captains Patrick Morley, Brian Johnson and Jonathan Qian provide leadership and stability for the young Rams. Morley excels in several events. Johnson is a backstroke specialist who leads off the medley relay, while Qian is swimming career-best times in the breaststroke.
Karl Bishop (distance) and Kyle Shadeck (individual medley, butterfly) lead a talented sophomore class which also includes Mike Goodrich and Alex Cheruk, while freshmen Ryan Mostoller and Will Wynne also contribute.
Cheshire puts its perfect record on the line against Fairfield Prep and Pomperaug next week. Then next month, the Rams visit Amity, a team the Cheshire senior class has never defeated.
“I’m really excited,” Morely said. “What we have been able to do at the beginning of the year has been great but, like you said, we have a lot of young guys. Once everybody starts to get the experience, we can really build off of what we have done so far.”
The fast start has certainly put Cheshire back in the conversation when talking about league title contenders. With a large crop of underclassmen, the future is certainly promising.
“Do I think in a year or two that we might be able to put together one of those really great dual meet records and go to the league meet and go to states and be a team that can really contend for a title?,” Connolly said. “The numbers definitely indicate that that’s something that should be in consideration. There’s numbers and strength down in those ninth and 10th grades. We just have to keep the momentum going.”